workforce of the future

Workforce of the Future: 5 Skills You’ll Need to Lead

1698 900 Brenda Akinyi

How hard will it be to lead the workforce of the future?

Automation is increasingly being adopted in today’s operations and with this in place, the fear of workers being replaced has become rampant over the years. In reality, however, technology has historically created more jobs than it has eliminated.

According to research done by McKinsey Global Institute on automation, 60% of all occupations have about 30% of tasks automatable. This means that most times, humans will work alongside machines, hence the need to be tech-savvy.

In this regard, while machines are considered helpful and efficient, they have limitations on what they can accomplish independently. It follows that even with all the hype surrounding technology, organizations are consistently seeking out individuals with key soft skills which cannot be replaced by machines.

Some of the skills unique to human intelligence but necessary to succeed in the workforce of the future include:

Analytical skills:

This refers to one’s ability to investigate and find solutions to problems effectively.

These skills range from communication, creativity, critical thinking, data analysis, and research.

Good news is, you can strengthen these through routine and practice. A few tips on how to go about this include:

  • Practice daily — Do brain exercises, read more books to expand your view of the world. Take a course online to build on skills such as excel or data analytics. is an excellent website with tons of courses.
  • Break your routines — Try a different way of doing the same thing, so you don’t find yourself stuck in a rut.
  • Watch someone else solve a problem — Take notes as you observe and practice the new tricks later!
  • Think through your decisions — Weigh the pros and cons of your choices. Ask for expert opinion or do some research to determine your best option.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills:

This includes a collection of traits and abilities that emphasize a logical approach to tackling new ideas, sorting information and discovering creative solutions in the workforce of the future.

Organizations are increasingly in need of individuals who can effectively identify the problems that exist and come up with ways the organization can go about solving these problems. This is also a bonus to your relationships.

Learn how you can build this skill set with these techniques and tricks from Lionel Valdellon.

Data skills:

With the continuous growth of internet usage, organizations now acquire a lot of data from their customers. They face the burden of finding ways in which they can interpret the information to make sound business decisions.

Consequently, individuals with the ability to accurately infer patterns, draw conclusions and make recommendations based on data, are increasingly valuable in the workforce of the future.

Cognitive flexibility:

Your ability to adapt to change.

Given these ever-changing times, organizations are consistently challenged to adapt to new trends in business. Like any skill, one can sharpen this by putting your brain to work to learn new skills at every turn. We gain massive rewards by ensuring that we remain open to change.

People management:

How do you collaborate with others? Are you open to learning from those around you regardless of the difference in roles?

Just as people execute ideas and plans, machines are operated by people. Organizations are keen to hire and retain individuals who work well within the team and can effectively actualize their vision. A few tips on how you can develop this skill set in the workforce of the future:

  • Practice active listening
  • Acknowledge the expertise of others
  • Control your emotions
  • Practice empathy
  • Cultivate a positive outlook
  • Have a genuine interest in your colleagues
  • Maintain your relationships and networks — Don’t let “Out of sight, out of mind” ruin relationships you’ve cultivated over the years

In conclusion, it is clear that we all need to be life-long learners, as work today is less predictable and less structured than it used to be. What you know today may not be relevant in the workforce of the future. Therefore, hone your creative, human and persuasion skills. In addition to this, open yourself up to new experiences and explore the space that sits outside of your comfort zone starting today.

Photo by Sean Foley on Unsplash

Related Article: The Future of Work: Best of Times and/or Worst of Times?

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Take a sneak peek into our assessments

1051 675 Mita Mandawker

Curious how applicants at Shortlist show us what they can do? Come take a tour of our assessments!

Hiring can be extremely time-consuming. A study we published last year showed that for a single mid-level hire, Kenyan SMEs are spending around 18 hours screening CVs, and then 19 additional hours interviewing candidates — almost a full week of work for each role! Thankfully, adding assessments into the mix as a bias-free screening tool can improve both the efficiency and predictiveness of any hiring process.

User-friendly assessments to increase the predictive quotient of hiring.

Our assessments are the “secret sauce” of our hiring platform. They help us screen thousands of potential candidates for the skills they need on the job — before the interview. We really care about empowering candidates before and throughout the assessment process. To ensure this, we use a combination of fun yet challenging questions that make candidates feel good, and informative messages so that candidates always feel prepared.

We help candidates know what to expect before they start the assessments

We aim to level the playing field for all candidates by allowing them to demonstrate potential beyond what’s on their resume.

Take a sneak peek into how our assessments work…

An approach backed by research

A famous meta-analysis over 80 years of research showed that in combination with an assessment of general mental ability (GMA), work sample tests and structured interviews are the most predictive of a candidate’s future performance on the job. Shortlist assessments typically contain a mix of questions on general mental ability and role-specific scenarios (i.e., “work sample tests”). But these aren’t your average case studies…

Predicting on-the-job performance

Our assessment library contains over one thousand questions. The questions are usually multiple choice, fill in the blank, or free text — depending on the competency we are trying to assess. Keeping the total assessment length for each application between 10–40 minutes helps us get an accurate view of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, while maximizing completion rates (i.e., making sure the applicants don’t abandon the process). Each question tests for on-the-job performance in one or more of the following ways:

  • General Mental Ability: Questions that determine how well a candidate can process and apply information. For example, interpreting text, conducting mental math, or spotting errors in content.
  • Functional Skills: Questions that require candidates to work through tasks they will have to perform on the job. For example, drawing conclusions from data, identifying appropriate sales channels, or designing operating processes.
  • Domain Knowledge: Questions that gauge how well candidates understand the subject matter. For example, knowing Excel commands, coding in Java, or building financial models.
  • Situational Judgement: Questions that test for how candidates will handle situations that may arise on the job. For example, meeting deadlines, prioritizing actions, or managing a team.

We also assess for ‘softer skills’ such as leadership, empathy, and learning ability through voice recorded questions, short phone interviews, and detailed structured interviews.

Most of the questions on our online platform look like this.

We try and keep the context universal and the question prompt straightforward:

Creating world-class assessments that identify the best talent

To kickstart building our assessments, we underwent a competency-mapping exercise where we reviewed over 100,000 job descriptions of different role types across thousands of companies. This allowed us to identify the core competencies required to succeed in a few common functions such as sales, marketing, and finance. We then created a range of questions around each of these competencies with varying industry context and difficulty levels. We now use various combinations of these questions to create customized flows for each role that we hire for. Our assessment team, in collaboration with external experts, is continually adding questions for key competencies across several domains including finance, tech, and data science.

How do we know that our questions accurately predict job performance?

We try to be thorough with our internal and external validation and have even automated a few of our validation techniques. Internal validation involves checking for appropriate pass rates, conducting distractor analyses, and designing for a normal distribution on the scores. External validation involves correlating on-the-job performance scores of candidates we’ve placed with their assessment scores from the application.

No two jobs are the same — so your assessment flows shouldn’t be, either!

We begin each engagement with our clients with a consultation, which includes a job-task analysis to identify the key competencies required for a job. This informs the mix of questions we select from our library.

Assessments for a progressive global audience

We like to believe that we’re slowly eliminating bias from the hiring process through our job-relevant assessments. We make it a point to use egalitarian, current language in our assessments to change conventional mindsets about the workplace. For instance, we promote flatter organisation structures by using terms like “manager” and “colleagues” instead of “boss” and “report” and normalizing women in leadership positions by referring to a CEO as “she” instead of “he.”

You’re a talented engineer — here are 5 reasons why you should join a startup

566 400 Shortlist

My entire career has been in technology, at companies that range from startups (where I have been the founding member) to Fortune 50 corporations. One thing that remains the same regardless of company size is how essential talent is to execute your mission. At Shortlist, we’re always on the lookout for great engineers to join our tech team in Hyderabad.

I’m all too aware of the societal and professional pressures that might keep an engineer from joining a startup, including company branding (ideally most of the family should be aware of the company — especially during marriage proposals), job security to pay for home or car loans, pressure to be the breadwinner of the family, and many more. It’s frustrating to meet talented young engineers who are a great fit with our team but feel unable to take the leap — so if you’re an engineer, here are five reasons why you should join a startup:

Reason #1: Opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies

At startups, the appetite for experimenting with new technologies is higher since innovation is at the heart of every startup. Most big companies are cautious of upgrading to newer technologies given their application impact and cost of training new employees.

At Shortlist, we launched one of our flagship products using Angular 2 JS before Google had even launched Angular 2 to production. Of course, we had our share of problems by choosing this risky route. But luckily, we had access to engineers from the Google team that developed Angular who worked alongside us to solve the bugs together. The experience and feeling of being ahead in the game when it comes to launching products using new technologies are fantastic.

Reason #2: Expedited skills growth

Every engineer will have a chance to wear multiple hats in a startup. Working at startups allows them to pursue their passion in many areas, rather than sticking to the limited job duties. Most engineers are usually involved in all phases of the SDLC making them an all-rounder helping them boost their career opportunities. For example, our lead engineer Sunny was introduced to Java and back-end technologies during the beginning of his career and continued for over seven years. Recently, he started contributing to AWS, found it interesting, and is now executing complex AWS projects which he says was only possible given our support of his growth.

Reason #3: Company branding can later become an asset

Some candidates whom I interviewed mentioned that they liked everything about Shortlist, especially our culture and tech stack, but couldn’t accept our offer because their family wasn’t aware of the company name. Startups aren’t known to the world until they become super successful like Facebook or WhatsApp. How many people heard about the 55 people WhatsApp before it was acquired by Facebook for 19 billion dollars? While not every startup hits it big, it can be a bet worth taking if you believe in the value of the product.

Reason #4: Product companies

Working at a product company is preferred by many engineers compared to working at a service-based company. For someone writing thousands of lines of code, it’s going to be a rewarding experience to see the impact of it in the real world on a regular basis. At product startups, engineers are involved early in the product vision, product roadmap and have an opportunity to contribute entrepreneurial ideas to the business. Engineers have an opportunity to learn a lot more beyond core software development by participating in business meetings, sales calls, user interviews, experimenting new technologies, building innovative solutions and more.

Reason #5: Make an impact — and get recognized for it

When you launch new features in a startup, the impact you make can be observed very quickly and easily. In a bigger company, the piece of code you contribute to may feel insignificant in the huge ocean of code contributed by hundreds of engineers. Passionate engineers get noticed in the early stages and are promoted quickly giving them a jumpstart to their career ladder. For example, Tilak joined us as a technical support engineer and grew to become a software developer in 6 months. Based on his performance and hard work, he was promoted to a lead role in another 9 months and is currently leading a team of engineers. This accelerated career growth can be possible by working in startups.

Bonus: Startups are Fun!

Most startups believe that the best work and ideas come from work hard, play hard culture. From celebrating the big milestones to appreciating the little things, startups have a strong company culture that encourages both teamwork and healthy competition.

Our awesome engineers on the startup journey!

How to choose for yourself?

The word ‘startup’ is an inclusive term and is used by a company with a single person to a company with more than 10,000 employees, like Uber. When evaluating a startup, one needs to look at the strength of the leadership team, funding status, number of employees, happy clients, the culture of the company, the problem they are trying to solve, products they are working on, and more.

A few engineers who initially hesitated to join us because we are an early stage startup eventually joined our team after asking and finding answers to the above questions. Not all startups are the same. So, ask the right questions before you accept or reject an offer from a startup. Good luck!

Ready to make the leap? We are always looking for talented engineers in Java and other open source web technologies at our Hyderabad office. Learn more at and get in touch with me at

The Full Stack Business Model for Talent?

600 617 Paul Breloff

I am very excited about the current popularity of the term “full stack,” the zeitgeist of which was captured by John Herrman’s recent New York Times’s article on “the stack” as the flavor-of-the-moment tech metaphor for understanding everything. The author noted that the term refers to a set of software that works together to accomplish something, but has expanded to comfortably roll off the tongues of a diverse range of non-techies in such contexts as diet (a “supplement stack”), leadership (a “talent stack”), and public policy (the “India stack” — though I suppose that’s still kind of techie). I will admit, I’m a gleeful offender, though I mostly still use the term in boring, as-intended phrases like “full stack engineer” and in sentences like, “Gosh, we’re having a hard time finding awesome full stack engineers, do you know any in Hyderabad?” (Seriously; do you know any?)

All this full stack talk has made me think about the full stack business model— distinct from a full stack tech solution or full stack platform— which happens to be what we’re building at Shortlist. In this context, full stack connotes something akin to “vertically integrated,” owning the full (in this case) recruiting value chain from job description to source to shortlist. But it also means that we act as a company’s outsourced full tech stack, bringing the “best of” a robust talent tech stack to companies so that they don’t have to go figure it all out on their own.

How does this concept play out at Shortlist?

We work with companies to deeply understand the role (and which competencies will drive success), build a candidate pool through a diverse range of channels, and most importantly, narrow down large candidate pools from many to few using a mix of sophisticated software and thoughtful human touch.

This is a bit unusual for a tech company, and earns us the occasional accusation of being a “service company,” an insult in VC/tech parlance on par with egg-throwing in a French election (Marine Le Pen, you deserved it!). It’s true that most companies in the talent tech world are obsessed with being a purely tech solution that picks one thing (video interviews, gamified assessments, social media search) and slots neatly into a company’s HR tech stack, playing nicely with the jumble of HRIS, CRM, ATS, social search, and other stuff revving the engine of sophisticated Fortune 500 HR teams around the world. If you’re a startup selling to a big company with a sophisticated talent value chain, there’s a darn good case to be made to specialize and focus, optimize the heck out of your corner of heaven, integrate promiscuously, and wait for someone to buy you.

Unfortunately, I think this is a challenging strategy for a company building a tech solution for talent issues in emerging markets, because it’s not what the market wants or is ready for.

Across industries, I’ve seen many companies fail trying to tackle just one part of a value chain, and I’ve seen how the success stories realized they needed to figure out the entire thing to succeed. We saw this in microfinance, as the success stories in India of the early/mid 2000s grew by owning the entire product and distribution value chain for financial services. We saw this in household solar products, as the success stories in East Africa of the late 2000s/early 2010s grew by owning the complete manufacturing to packaging to sales/distribution value chain, many times extending into after-sales service as well. And we’re seeing it even today as e-commerce businesses figure out new ways of solving last mile delivery and payments in order to grow their businesses.

We think it’s a similar case when it comes to talent and recruiting, albeit with less distribution and more of a tech dimension. SMEs with 1,000 or fewer employees will rarely have “talent tech stacks,” and frankly will rarely have any HR-focused software capable of integrating with cutting edge tech tools.

And when it comes time for SMEs to hire and grow, they don’t want to go out hunting for software, doing demos, comparing features and prices, negotiating contracts, waiting out tech integrations, training employees on how to use it, weathering complaints about how “the old way was better,” and praying the new tech actually works and generates ROI to write home about. No way!

When SMEs need to hire and grow, they want people, not software: they want to talk to people who understand their needs and they want to be given candidates who are great, ready to be interviewed, and ready to get to work. It’s not that these companies are opposed to software and tech — not at all! — they’d just rather someone else figure that out, so they can get back to their core business.

At Shortlist, we figure that out. We build technology that makes the human touch more efficient and effective, while not expecting it to replace humans altogether (yet). And we build for the full value chain, knowing most SMEs in particular want partners to solve their whole problem, not just part of it.

At least that’s what we always wished existed as we’ve built companies as founders, managers and investors in India and Kenya over the years.

So here’s to the full stack business model! (And here’s to full stack engineers, too, who should come talk to us if they’re in Hyderabad and ready to build something awesome.)